May 27, 2010


When I’m traveling, there are several things I look for to get the pulse of the popular culture in a country. Among a few, for example, are the kind of street food that’s most popular, what’s stocked at the supermarkets, and the kind of advertising that is targeted at the general population.

Looking through images I had downloaded I found two examples of online advertising that had caught my attention because they are clues to what advertisers think will capture an Ecuadorean’s attention and imagination and get them to pull out their wallets.

I found both when checking my email account so these are targeted broadly, at people who use computers and have an email account. In terms of graphics they are nicely designed and wouldn’t stand out if I didn’t speak Spanish because it’s not the images but the text that startled me. In the one below, you can get a vague idea of its message by looking at it but I gasped when I read the copy, “Only a few men really know how to call out to women…be the envy of your (male) friends with the best catcalls”. Notice, in particular, the construction workers at the bottom of the ad.

Now, men who're reading this post may not quite get what’s so remarkable about this ad but if you’re a woman this ad is probably making you cringe. I’ve often wondered what on earth kind of reaction men who make rude comments at women on the street expect to get. Apparently, they just need to learn better ones to get the loving response of their dreams!

That kind of behavior does exist in Ecuador but it’s nothing compared to the constant stream you find in certain places--the streets of NYC, for example. I was actually surprised to see this ad aimed at Ecuadorean men, unless the demographic is teens who are driven by their out of control hormones! Going by this ad, machismo is alive and well and living in Ecuador. Right before I left I noticed an advertising campaign against machismo whose slogan is “Machismo is violence” so there’s certainly an awareness of the issue.

The appeal of the one above is more easily understood as the desire for money is fairly universal but I was still somewhat taken aback. The copy here reads: “ I invested only $200 and in 3 weeks it turned into $12,000. Today, after a few months I’ve made over $17,500.” The brilliance of this ad is that $200 is just about the right amount to tempt someone in Ecuador into investing. Large enough that it has value but small enough that once lost it won’t immediately persuade the investor to stop. I can only hope that no one is actually falling for these absurd claims. Turn $200 into $12,000 in 3 weeks. Yeah, right.

May 24, 2010


Here are a few more examples of the beautiful architecture in Cuenca.

I’ve noticed in some of the blogs I read, about moving to Ecuador, that the packing stage carries some emotional weight, which I’m not experiencing yet. It may be that I’ve always found it hard to imbue objects with sentimental value or that my memories are so firmly entrenched within my mind that I know how easy they are to revisit. I do know that I will miss the serenity I feel whenever I sit by the lake and experience its stillness. But I know I will carry those moments with me wherever I go.

I guess places, people, and things are tied to experiences and to the feelings that accompanied those experiences. It is very fortunate that, in remembering, every part of that experience comes back to life to be enjoyed again. I look forward to making more memories in Ecuador.

This reminds me that though I first started traveling around 30 years ago, pretty much to a different country every year, it wasn’t until my trip to Ecuador three years ago that I brought a camera along for the very first time. I have no pictures of any of my travels, other than those taken by others. I felt that putting a camera between the world and myself did not allow me to fully experience what was right in front of me. I’ve never regretted that decision.

However, I brought a camera on that trip to Ecuador because I was traveling with my Mom and she wanted pictures of her family. Luckily, once I returned home I had already printed my favorite ones of her and her sisters when my hard drive died and all the pictures I had taken of Ecuador were lost—all of them, including some landscapes I really liked.

Now that I have this blog I find that I enjoy taking pictures to post and writing the little captions. But it is the sharing of them that I enjoy the most and once they are posted they too become a memory. I’m glad our brains are so good at remembering.

May 21, 2010

Bottoms Up!

The babies are here! This is the first set of ducklings at the lake this year.

There are seven of them and they are sticking close to their mom.

Look at that face!

Mom thinks it's time to go back in the water and the ducklings rush after her. Dad is on the lookout--gotta keep the family safe.

They spend quite a bit of time looking for food underwater. I never get tired of the sight of their little butts up in the air.

May 20, 2010

Spring Palette

These are the colors of spring by the lakeside, here in Pennsylvania.

I’ve been getting quite a few goldfinches at the bird feeder.

They too are part of the clean bright palette of spring--everything looks new and fresh. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of this year’s fawns.

The house is rented. One step forward--just a few weeks to go until the move.

May 19, 2010

Oddly Familiar Sights

Looking through my pictures I found these images that were unusual to me yet became familiar after spending some time in Cuenca. Above is a slab of unsweetened chocolate, sold at Mercado 10 de Agosto and other places around town. It is most commonly used to make frothy hot chocolate. I was tempted to take some home just so I could continue gazing upon its marbled beauty!

Laundry hung out to dry on a clothesline is a familiar sight, as most people do not use clothes dryers. Sometimes you also see items strewn on shrubs to take advantage of a superior sunny exposure.

Indigenous ladies in their native costumes are a familiar sight around town. Their hats indicate the indigenous group to which they belong. This was the first time I saw this particularly stylish hat design.

May 17, 2010

Looking Up

Walk past the Mercado 10 de Agosto, to the end of Calle Larga, continue without going down to the bridge, find yourself on La Condamine street, look up, and this is some of what you'll see.

You’ll find the Prohibido (Forbidden) Centro Cultural, which is where avant garde theater is performed.

The building right next to it has this lovely roofline.

And as always, look up and see wonderful cloudscapes.

May 14, 2010

Some Plant Life

The picture above is of a fig tree, which was growing at Ecuagenera, the orchid enterprise.

The flowering cactus and the stylish spiral-leaved plant were growing there as well.

I saw this flowering bush growing all around and above the wire fence bordering a home. This is a fairly common sight and it makes the front of the homes look so pretty.

I took this shot of a small flowering tree, which was growing on the sidewalk, as rain was approaching. The light made the flowers look luminous against the darkening sky.

You’ll notice a variety of plant life growing along the river. I thought this was particularly lovely.

Spring-like weather year-round means that something is always flowering regardless of the time of year. I’m looking forward to gardening without frost or deer lurking around. I’m sure I’ll encounter some other gardening tribulations but this sounds like gardening paradise to me.

May 13, 2010

Finishing One Project

I’m working on the big move and progress is slow. I’m in a bit of limbo right now waiting on other people to move forward--frustrating. In the meantime, I’m going through the winnowing process and I’m even clearing out my computer. There are a few pictures that I had put aside to post at some point but time got away from me before I left. I’ll be posting them throughout the next few days and finishing that project, so I can start posting fresh pictures when I return.

When writing about Ecuador, everyone mentions children at some point. I think it is quite apparent, particularly when contrasting Ecuadorean children to American children, that there must be some differences in the way children are brought up here. Children as a whole are very well behaved and obedient, and it would be pretty rare for them to be disrespectful toward their parents.

Parents are extremely patient and affectionate and Ecuadoreans in general appear very well humored toward children. Older siblings take an important role in helping take care of the younger ones, comforting and playing with them as needed. There also appears to be very little sense of “stranger danger”. Children move about freely, though usually in the company of other children.

You can see young children in malls and parks, with adults nearby but not attached to them. In many ways, Ecuador seems to be living about 50 years in the past and this is one area where that might be a good thing.

May 6, 2010

Dim sum and Groundhogs

I flew overnight to NYC, arriving groggy-brained around 10AM—life would be much easier if I could sleep on a plane! I had scheduled to meet a friend in Chinatown at 1PM--I couldn’t wait to get some dim sum after two months doing without. Here’s the cart I was studying just a couple of hours after being back in the States. I think the first order of business once I get back to Cuenca is to find out if anyone is interested in opening a dim sum parlor.

I stayed in NYC for a few days, visiting with my sister and friends, but I was anxious to see how the house had fared over the winter. I knew everything was all right with the world when I saw the resident groundhog sunnying himself on the boardwalk. He's been around for the eight years I've had the place and he's gotten huge!

Then I put out the bird feeder and the first bird soon stopped by for a snack.

My first days back have been glorious, the lake sparkling with sunlight. I am really going to miss the view. I do look forward to being back in Cuenca but I’m already missing this place, I love it so. Is this a common feeling for those who move to another country? Yikes, should I be concerned about what it means?

It's hard to believe this will be my last summer by the lake.